October blizzard losses temper excitement over high cattle prices

Farm Forum

As loads of cattle arrive at sale barns for fall calf sales, it’s bittersweet for many to think of those who have lost cattle, some whole herds. The excitement of high prices at local sale barns has been tempered by thoughts of the suffering of fellow ranchers affected by the severe blizzard in the western part of the state. Those in the cattle business know how hard losing an animal can be, not to mention most of a herd. South Dakota ranks sixth in the country in livestock production with nearly 4 million head of cattle. Officials say 6,000 ranching operations suffered losses from the storm.

Brian Prins, cattle buyer from the Sisseton area and also part of Prins Cattle Company Ranch, searched to find the right words. He said, “What happened in western South Dakota with the October blizzard was a horrible tragedy. Despite the huge losses, it will not be a market changer for the cattle market.”

As he watched cattle go through the sale ring, he examined the characteristics of the animals for ones that his customers desire. He purchases cattle for operations throughout the Midwest, from Illinois to Colorado, and south of Kansas. A quick phone call and a raise of the hand in under a minute’s time bought the calves for one of his customers.

“The market is amazing,” Prins said. “What an opportunity for the cow/calf producer – it’s their time to reap some benefits.” High grain prices have pushed up the price for pasture ground. Locally there has been a wonderful hay crop.

There is always a big demand for good cattle. While Prins knows the market is cyclic, he said the biggest challenge is that prairie grass is being torn up for crops and no longer is available for pasture.

The futures market tells what will be coming, especially in the fat cattle market, and Prins expects a really good fat cattle market in 2014.

Two weeks ago, Chad Weiszhaar of Leola drove to the Hub City Sale barn in Aberdeen to sell the last batch of this year’s grass calves of Weiszhaar Farms. “We’re done with the yearlings for now and happy with the price,” he said. “It’s a good time to be in the cattle business.” He said the family has hung in there when feed was scarce ,and they have gone through drought conditions as